Believe it or not, there was a time when Chien-Ming Wang was the ace of the New York Yankees‘ pitching staff. At the time, the young right-hander compiled two straight 19 win seasons, and finished second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2006. So what happened?
During an interleague game against the Houston Astros in 2008, Wang, who was 8-2 at the time, injured his right foot while running the bases – something he wasn’t accustomed to doing as AL pitchers do not normally bat. Having the ace of their staff go down for the rest of the season was a tremendous blow to the 2008 team, as they would not make the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
Needless to say, Wang was never the same pitcher after his injury.
He attempted to comeback in 2009, but after a terrible start to the season, Wang was ultimately placed on the DL again. He would never throw another pitch for the Yankees after that. At the end of the 2009 season, Wang was made a free agent.
Wang would then sign on with the Washington Nationals in 2010, and spent three years in their organization. In his three years with the Nats, Wang compiled a 6-6 record to go alongside a 4.94 ERA. After the 2012 season, the Nationals let go of Wang, making him a free agent once again.
So it begs the question, do the Yankees at least take another look at their former ace?
All it would really take from the Yankees is to make Wang a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. If they like what they see from him, he can stick around. If they don’t, they can get rid of him. Doing that would provide no significant burden on the Yankees’ plan to lower payroll by 2014. The starting rotation for the Yankees is full of holes right now with the uncertainty surrounding the returns of both Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. Wang could attempt to fill a spot in the rotation or even in the bullpen if he should prove himself to Yankees officials during Spring Training. With the Yankees, he would also be working with pitching coach Larry Rothschild who has been known to help pitchers with their mechanics.
Ultimately, the chances of Wang returning to the Bronx are slim. Despite that, the Yankees should not turn their back on Wang. If the team invites him to Spring Training and he shows a little bit of promise, he could wind up being a low-risk, high-reward type of player. The Yankees have taken their chances on players before, so why not take a chance on Chien-Ming Wang?
Follow Hunter Farman on Twitter @hfarman1